FOREST PARK — Qualifying ended Friday for Clayton County cities and Forest Park’s races have the makings for interesting contests.
Former Elections Superintendent Darnell Moorer has qualified to run in Ward 1 against incumbent Tommy Smith and Kimberly James. Moorer was fired last month at the suggestion of Councilwoman Latresa Akins, who accused him of being too political and publicly critical of the mayor. James lost to Smith in a March special election by 15 votes.
Ward 2, which hasn’t had an incumbent since Karen-Brandee Williams was removed from office in July 2011 following an ethics investigation, is the most sought-after seat this year with five candidates. A 25-count ethics complaint was filed against Williams by three residents and an independent hearing officer confirmed 15 of those charges.
One of the three residents, Carl Evans, qualified to run in Ward 2. Also seeking the Ward 2 seat are Luke Gawel; Deverick Williams, who was unsuccessful in previous runs for council; Dabouze Antoine, who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor in March, and Sheena Lowe.
Mayor David Lockhart has two challengers. Former Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams and retired Public Works Director Mike Gippert threw their hats into the ring for mayor.
The mayor’s race is already marked by some controversy.
Gippert is one of three defendants in a libel suit filed by Lockhart in Clayton County State Court. Gippert has filed two ethics complaints against Lockhart, one of which also targets councilwomen Maudie McCord and Latresa Akins.
However, Jonesboro voters who are used to large council races may be in for a bit of a shock this year. With only four candidates running, it will be the smallest council race the city has seen in years. Over the last three election cycles, the number of council candidates has ranged from seven to nine.
Two incumbents whose seats had been up for re-election, Clarence Mann and Joe Compton, did not qualify to run again, so it opens up the election for newcomers. It will also mean one-third of the council will change next year.
In all, three seats are up for election this year.
Councilwoman Pat Sebo is the only member of the board seeking re-election. Also running, however, are two former council members, Linda Wenz and Billy Powell. The other candidate, Jack Bruce, has never served on a council but he ran for a seat two years ago and came in fifth in a nine-person race.
Wenz was defeated by Councilman Wallace Norrington by six votes in her 2007 re-election bid. Powell lost his seat in the 2009 election. This is Sebo’s first re-election bid.
Jonesboro’s council seats are elected at-large, so the top three candidates receiving votes in the election will take seats on the governing body.
Effectively, the question in Jonesboro is not who will get in, but who will be left out.
Riverdale Ward 1 Councilwoman Cynthia Stamps-Jones will run unchallenged for another four-year term. However, her Ward 2 counterpart, Councilwoman Wanda Wallace, will be challenged by software engineer Claude Tate, 45, a 20-year resident of the city.
In Morrow, residents will see half of their four-member council change hands. Councilmen Bob Huie and Virlyn Slaton did not qualify to seek additional terms in office. Huie had been expected to leave office when his term ended, and Slaton had said his chances of running again hinged upon how his recovery from hip replacement surgery went. Their seats are the only council seats up for election this year.
Seeking to replace Huie and Slaton are Jeff DeTar, Randy Anderson, Hang Tran and Chris Mills. DeTar lost to Joseph “J.B.” Burke by one vote in Morrow’s 2011 mayoral election. Council candidates run at-large. In addition to holding council elections, Morrow will also hold a referendum on Sunday alcohol sales in November.
In College Park, incumbents Joseph Carn in Ward 2 and Charles Phillips in Ward 4 have qualified for re-election. Phillips is being challenged by Roderick Gay and R. L. “Coco” Bright. Carn will face off against Abraham Watson.
In Lake City, incumbents J.B. Sowell and Yvonne Kelly have qualified to run for another term. Bobbie Hamilton also qualified Friday morning, city hall officials said.
More candidates could still emerge this year. The state-mandated deadline to register as a write-in candidate is Sept. 6. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 7.
Lovejoy has no seats up for election this year.